The Brijrama Palace is a luxurious heritage hotel on the ghats (high embankments with steps leading into the river) in Varanasi. More than 200 years old, it’s been open since 2016, after 18 years of restoration. It is beautiful and opulently furnished with antiques and 18th-century art. Located on the Darbhanga Ghat, the only way to get there is by boat. Following a fascinating hour-long drive from the airport to the Mahishasura Assi Ghat, we took our first trip on the sacred Ganges. Luckily for us, once at the Brijrama, it’s the only hotel on the ghats with an elevator (the first in India). When we arrived, we were met by a priest who anointed our foreheads and gave us each a traditional marigold garland.
If you must consume alcohol and eat steak nightly, this is not the place for you. Since the Ganges is a holy river, there is no alcohol or meat served in facilities along its waters. Several kilometers inland you can eat and drink whatever.
This is one of the best ways to experience India as it has been for thousands of years and we were happy to forego cocktails, wine, and meat. From a culinary standpoint, the elegant restaurant Darbhanga at the Brijrama was wonderful and we really enjoyed our dinner of the traditional vegetarian Banarsari Thaali. It was actually more like a feast, delicious – I wish I knew what everything was. Read the rest of this entry
Our guide said it was like we had walked into a movie set and the director screamed “action.” It was a perfect representation, everyone and every vehicle were in motion.
For three hours we walked through the streets and alleyways of downtown and northern Varanasi. It was at once surreal and a bit intimidating. Intimidating because I felt like I could get mowed down by a motorbike or Three-Wheeler at any moment. Our 30ish guide encouraged us to find the flow of the city and just move with it. Let me tell you that is easier said than done.
The alleys were just wide enough for a motorbike, a person pressed against a wall, and maybe a sleeping dog, trash, or a randomly placed step. If a cow appeared, all bets were off. One time a large (possibly aggressive ) monkey blocked our passage. The pathways are uneven and wet. Sometimes shopkeepers were dumpling water to clean the area in front of their shop, often they were sweeping – but both the water and the swept trash have nowhere to go except a few feet ahead. When the “wet” was not from water it was best not to think about it. Read the rest of this entry
Let’s put this part of the world in perspective, look back to the 7th century BC.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built, the Maya culture was thriving, Ezekiel the Hebrew prophet was born, Egypt’s Thebes was captured and sacked, Argos defeated Sparta for the last time, Greeks had their first naval battle, the Zhou Dynasty ruled in China, and Varanasi was part of the world stage.
This century, every kilometer closer to Varanasi is a step closer to another world. About an hours drive from the airport, we reached Mahishasura Assi Ghat* on the Ganges to board a boat to take us to our luxurious hotel on the ghats. The Brijrama Palace is a 200+-year-old Heritage hotel, open since 2016 after 18 years of restoration. On the Darbhanga Ghat, the only way to get there is by boat, but luckily for us, it’s the only hotel on the ghats with an elevator. The Ganges is a holy river and today Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, a sacred city for the Hindu. The entire area along the 7.6 kilometer stretch of the river is vegetarian and there is no alcohol served (there is in the interior of the city). There are 84 ghats and 300 temples. Read the rest of this entry